For this post, the term ‘spices’ will include seeds, herbs and other forms of seasonings. There are hundreds of different spices, but I will only mention the ones that I am familiar with in this post. My appreciation for spices came from a Trini friend I had. She came to visit me in Jamaica with a bag of tricks and a bag of spices. She was hell-bent on me sampling her Trini cuisine, and I happily obliged. It proved too much for me to handle, but from that moment I was hooked. I couldn’t believe that the majority of my adult life I was clueless to the ingredients that gave my favorite meals their flavor. I never realized how important these seemingly insignificant additions were. After I had made a special trip to the supermarket, I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of different spices that were available locally. There were so much more than the salt, black pepper, seasoning salt and curry that I was accustom. Those traditional spices along with the colorful concoctions that were used to season chicken and meat were all I knew growing up in Jamaica.
I love to cook as much I love to eat, and spices make my meals come alive. Knowing which spices goes best with other ingredients is critical and can make or break a meal. Sometimes you have to decide between fresh or dried spices based on the dish. I prefer robust, hot or ‘spicy’ spices. For that reason, Indian cuisine is my favorite. As a proud Jamaican, Jamaican cooking will always be close to my heart and mouth. However, being that I am a vegetarian that recently turned vegan, I find that the ‘Jamaican’ options are limited. I still enjoy Ackee (without the salt fish), and I even ‘curry’ it [Ackee] from time to time. I am also known to ‘Jerk’ my vegetables. My limited but increased knowledge of spices have brought my cooking to another level. I make a concerted effort not to use mixed spices like Lawry’s and Mrs. Dash, but rather I make my mixes, so I have total control over the ingredients and the flavors in my cooking.
Spices not only add flavor to your meals, but they also have health benefits. Some of my favorite spices are turmeric, cumin, cloves, pimento, garlic and cayenne pepper.
- Turmeric – Anti-inflammatory, Arthritis Management, Treats Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Cancer prevention, Lowers cholesterol.
- Oregano – Packed with antioxidants, Antimicrobial, Antifungal, Treats respiratory disorders, Loosens mucus and Calms Indigestion.
- Cayenne Pepper – Helps digestion, Anti-Irritant, Supports Weight Loss, Fights Cold and Flu, and Relieves Migraine Pain.
- Garlic – Fights Cold and Flu, Antibacterial, Cancer prevention, Anti-inflammatory, Cardiovascular benefits, and Boosts Immune System.
- Cinnamon – Antioxidant, Anti-inflammatory, Antibacterial/Antifungal, Fights Heart Disease, Lowers Blood Sugar, and Increases Insulin sensitivity.